rosefox: Batman feeds a baby while saying "We'll both be just fine" (baby-yay)
Rose Fox ([personal profile] rosefox) wrote2016-05-05 01:23 am

"I choose you"

I had a total meltdown tonight over needing to be the perfect parent so that the baby will love me and believe I love them--so that I can make up for my lack of biological link to them. Kit has a cold (the first time they've ever been ill) and has been so snuffly and feverish and sad. If Kit is sad and I don't fix it, what the hell kind of parent am I? And that triggers the doubts and fears about being no kind of parent at all.

This wasn't helped by someone asking me about my Mother's Day plans with my mom and assuming they didn't include the baby, because that person doesn't really think of Kit as my child or as my mother's grandchild. I've lost count of how many times people have erased my various identities--seeing me and J as a het couple, getting my pronouns wrong all the time, assuming X mattered less to me than J because of gender and distance, to name just a few--but oof, this erasure hurts the most, because on some level I believe it. (And also because the whole idea of being a parent is new, I think. I'm still not really used to it at all, so if someone says or implies I'm not one, I don't have that rock-solid identity certainty to brace myself against.)

I vented on Twitter, as I do, and [twitter.com profile] oh_also sent me to First Time Second Time, a blog by two queer parents who each gave birth to one of their kids. They write a lot about being non-gestational parents and it's really good. Their non-bio mom manifesto is exactly what I needed to read tonight, and the last two paragraphs in particular:
Even though I really hate the “Different but Equal” refrain, I’d be hard-pressed to say that my relationship with Leigh wasn’t different than Gail’s, at least during early infancy. So even though I get annoyed by such statements, I also sort of agree. But if I truly believe I do have a different and equal relationship to Leigh, even though she didn’t grow inside me, even though I didn’t nurse and nourish her as a baby, and even though she does not look a bit like me, there must be something else that I offered her. What is it? What is the “something extra” that I gave to her, that she wouldn’t have gotten in a family with only Gail as her parent?

This has been eating at me for years. Sure, I can see my influence in her mannerisms, the clarity with which she expresses herself, her bull-in-a-china-shop quality, her overt enthusiasm, and her love of connecting with all kinds of people. But none of that seems quite like the answer. The other night, though, I realized Gail had finally figured it out. What I offered to her, that only I could offer her, was my choice. I chose to parent her, and chose to love her deeply, despite a multitude of pressures that said either that I shouldn’t love her, or that I was unnecessary. Some of those pressures said explicitly that I’d damage her by my mere presence (those coming from, say, the religious right). Some of those pressures were more subtle, like the ones that said it wasn’t important for me to take leave to spend time with my new infant, or the ones that said if I pushed too hard to feed her or spend too much time with her, I’d take away from her all-important “primary” bond to Gail, resulting in some sort of vague but longstanding psychological damage. It is precisely the central challenge of being a non-bio-mom, the need to choose to parent your child, that makes the bond special. To spin something precious out of what looks and feels like nothing at the outset — no pregnancy, no genetic link, no nursing link, no overt need on the part of your child — is truly a gift to your whole family, and it is a gift that only you can give them.
I will clutch this to my heart forever. For-ev-er.

I will quibble only to say that each of us made a choice--each of us and all of us made many, many choices over a period of several years--to be Kit's parent. J chose to father the child and X chose to carry the child, and their biological contributions don't make their subsequent choices to be devoted, attentive parents any less important or essential. But my lack of biological contribution doesn't make my choice any less real or meaningful.

I write this from the rocking chair in Kit's room, where I plan to sit all night. Their fever's broken--it never got above 101.2, so we were never super worried, but any kind of fever is no fun--and the congestion is easing, but they're still snuffly. My anxieties are soothed by listening to them breathing, and if they wake up fussy I want to be right here for them. They slept on my lap for a while, and when I stood up to put them in the crib, they woke a little and turned their head and pressed their face against me in the purest gesture of trust and comfort-seeking I've ever seen. They chose me too. I choose to believe them.
amaebi: (Default)

[personal profile] amaebi 2016-05-11 12:54 am (UTC)(link)
I write as an adoptive parent who doesn't think about the adoption part much. It's just how we got the chun man as part of our family, initially.

I write from beside him on the second day he's been a bit hors-d'oeuvres, with a fever. We're goo companions. We like each other.

I write from place of very little knowledge of his biological parents, who aren't around to provide any contrast. We know a little bit about his birth mother. I hope the son who is both of ours will be, will continue to be, as she hoped, compassionate.

I am so very sure that you and Kit will be fine. That you are fine. That you will continue to be fine. :)

[identity profile] balmofgilead.livejournal.com 2016-05-15 04:08 pm (UTC)(link)
Hi - I apologize for the random unrelated comment, but I followed your LJ off and on for years and I seem to remember you writing, many years ago, about something like "light touch" vs "deep touch" and teaching a partner about it. That was the first I'd heard of it, but it resonated with me and lately I'm seeing how much that issue shows up as a difficulty in my relationships. (I'm someone who really enjoys touch, particularly being the one who gives touch, but has a really hard time enjoying receiving the sort of light touch that comes naturally to my partner--and to most people.)

I've googled this stuff, but I haven't found good resources about this for adults in relationships, and nothing about how it might intersect with gender or kink (and it seems like they must be related at least a little bit.)

I've always appreciated the way you write about your life experiences and the sort of thoughtful, process- and solution-oriented approach you seem to take. I was wondering if I'm remembering correctly that you wrote about this sort of thing, and if so, if you might be willing to share thoughts or strategies or resources about that, here or via email (clathrin @ gmail . com)

Thanks for any thoughts you might have about this.
-Miriam

[identity profile] balmofgilead.livejournal.com 2016-05-15 06:40 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you for confirming that it wasn't my imagination!

I think what I'm particularly struggling with is that even though I'm getting better at identifying and communicating it, a former partner commented that on some level they could never relax around me because they always needed to concentrate on making sure not to touch me in ways that don't feel good to me, even if we were just cuddling. That seems pretty unpleasant and like a lot of work for them. While I know that having needs is totally OK, I also know that my partner was not the unusual one in our situation--it's my needs that are unusual--so I'm somewhat frantically trying to figure out how to work that out if I want a life that includes touch: looking for the probably very rare people whose style works with mine, changing what I can tolerate or enjoy, or teaching people how to do things differently in a way that somehow does not lead to them constantly having to be "on" around me.
gingicat: (just me - ginger)

[personal profile] gingicat 2016-05-05 09:42 am (UTC)(link)
I think you should talk to Browngirl about what she would have liked if we had planned from the beginning to have her be the kids' third parent, rather than this weird evolved mishmash.

We tried a while ago to involve her in school and camp decisions, but since she started a second-shift job, that kind of fell by the wayside. And we don't want her to be liable for the difficult legal bits of having high-need children that could cause real problems for her.

At least our Parent Partner (from EMARC) immediately recognized, from talking to the kids, that B is a close family member and made certain to find time to meet her.

(Girlochka noted a few months ago that B really is her third parent. I'm running with this not least so that B gets the *respect* owed by a child to a parent. She's always had the love.)

[identity profile] kdsorceress.livejournal.com 2016-05-05 10:21 am (UTC)(link)
I don't have much helpful to say on the subject of parenting, but I am incredibly pleased and gratified to see someone from one social realm of my life linking to FTST --I was in math class one day with my uh-may-zing carfree hippie math teacher when I happened to catch sight of her twitter name and from there found her blog, and and and...

Yeah. Gail is super awesome and charming, (as is Ezekial) and their kids seem to be coming up the right way. Glad to see they're still writing.

Wishing you self-assurance and comfort.

~Sor

[identity profile] silkensteel.livejournal.com 2016-05-05 01:23 pm (UTC)(link)
After i was born, clueless parents asked my mom how she could not love me more than my brother, who she adopted (at a week old.) Mom never understood that kind of question. People, gah.

[identity profile] silkensteel.livejournal.com 2016-05-06 03:42 am (UTC)(link)
Mostly Eastern Europeans of my mom's generation - i got this feeling that there was some stigma around adoption. Early 1960s.

[identity profile] sartorias.livejournal.com 2016-05-05 01:43 pm (UTC)(link)
Can it be that people avoid the implied gendering of Mother's Day when talking to you? I admit to some puzzlement about that with respect to friends who are adamant against any gendering with respect to their relationships with their children. Mother's Day and Father's Day suddenly seem like triggers. It's easier when the person claims a gender, especially in reference to a kid . . .Until she had a family of her own, we always included my son's bio mom in our vast Mother's Day lollapalooza (we both had not only biologicals but inlaws and steps and halves and some adoptive elders who'd stood in as parents, three generations back thirty years ago. Now the list is very small.)

Anyway I think we need a parents' day, or a family day, to include those families whose components don't have a traditional or gendered role.

Here's an idea, all three of you celebrate Mothers' Day AND Fathers' Day. Excuse for more party!

[identity profile] sartorias.livejournal.com 2016-05-05 06:04 pm (UTC)(link)
That is such a great idea! And I can totally sympathize with your mom wanting to celebrate grandmotherhood!
ext_45721: Rabbit lying on a couch, reading large, antique book of Poe. (*hugs*)

[identity profile] caudelac.livejournal.com 2016-05-05 03:38 pm (UTC)(link)
it boggles me how anyone could not think of Kit as yours, particularly with an in-person connection to your family. I have very strong feelings about this based on a court case where we represented a non-gestational parent in a lesbian custody situation. But I don't understand how anyone could... undercut? Demean? Somebody who is being a parent to a child. It's hard enough without external division-imposing.
aegidian: (book)

[personal profile] aegidian 2016-05-05 04:37 pm (UTC)(link)
Yup. This. Me & B.

[identity profile] pameladean.livejournal.com 2016-05-05 04:40 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm sorry people are being so clueless and hurtful. You are one of the most parental people I have ever known. I know plenty of biological parents who are not half so engaged, creative, loving, patient, and intuitive about their kids. They are doing, or where the kids are grown, have done and try to continue to do probably the best that they could given their circumstances; but biological parenthood is no guarantee of anything in particular. Sometimes it seems like an impediment.

P.

[identity profile] pameladean.livejournal.com 2016-05-05 09:45 pm (UTC)(link)
It seems to me that there should be some other term for people who like kids in the lump. That's broader than parental; but there doesn't seem to be a ready word.

It feels very presumptuous to say something like "I've been so impressed with your parenting as described online," but I have.

P.

gingicat: (just me - ginger)

[personal profile] gingicat 2016-05-06 10:11 am (UTC)(link)
Nurturers?

[identity profile] metaphortunate.livejournal.com 2016-05-10 06:23 am (UTC)(link)
It's a hell of a change, isn't it? You Are Parental Now.

I love reading about you and Kit. :)

[identity profile] metaphortunate.livejournal.com 2016-05-10 06:37 am (UTC)(link)
And I'm sure you're passing that forward!

I remember when we joined our daycare, we went to this potluck they were having, and walked into a room of shrieking chaos, wriggling drool-emitters, preschoolers too fast to actually see, and mac'n'cheese....and we were like...welp, I guess this is the cult we just joined. So, this is what the parties are like! Woo!

And yes! It seems normal now!

[identity profile] dangerpudding.livejournal.com 2016-05-05 10:01 pm (UTC)(link)
Parenting is about choice. One of my day-to-day parents was bio, the other chose the job. That means *so much* to me, that he looked at me and made that choice, and continued making it for the rest of his life. He didn't have to, there was nothing legally or biologically binding him to me. In some ways, much as I love my bio-parents, that means more.

Which, uh, is me saying screw those people, you are a parent because you choose to be one, every day.

[identity profile] sariel-t.livejournal.com 2016-05-06 07:11 pm (UTC)(link)
*pebble* I don't have the words that I want, but I wanted to thank you for writing and having words that mean an awful lot to me and help me enunciate my own feelings about helping to raise a child eventually, and how I'd like things to go.